Staying Sane While Cooped Up

© Max Pepper

Lately, I’ve been noticing my social interaction with other people has been ticking up. “How can that happen?” you may ask. “We’re supposed to be social distancing! Are you being irresponsible?!” No, friends, at least, not any more than my work is forcing me to.

I work a shitty shift. From 7p-5a every Wednesday night through Sunday morning, I’m at my job. It’s been like this (or similar time slot) for a few years now. Everyone gets together and games on weekend evenings and nights. I used to go to Magic the Gathering draft on Thursdays, DND on Saturdays, gaming with friends any other time. But I’m stuck at work. Alone.

Then, on my nights off, everyone is going to bed at a responsible time because, hell, now they have work the next day. And that’s perfectly reasonable but I’m often left on my own to entertain myself the whole night because nothing good is open at 3 AM.

But then everyone started working at home, social distancing, socializing started to be done on the internet and – most importantly – on my favorite platform: Discord. People were online even on weekdays in the wee hours of the morning. Holy shit! I can talk to people again! If you don’t know how/where to find a discord to join, locate your favorite subreddit or find a subreddit about something you love. There’s usually a discord invite there. Alternatively, you can join mine! It’s small but I’m nice; don’t worry. 😉

But I’ve also noticed many people bemoaning not being able to see other people, giving their “tips to get through it!” Many of these are from others who have WFH for a long while, and that’s wonderful. Use those productivity tips! I’m here today, children, to tell you how to stay sane when you can’t physically meet anyone.

First tip,

the fact that everyone else has to do this too is a godsend. Take advantage of that. Like everyone’s been saying: Skype, FaceTime, call, hop in a discord chat if people are there and even if people aren’t. Maybe someone else will join. Hear other human voices. If no one seems to be up, message them just in case. Maybe they are available but just aren’t online and will hop on once they know there’s someone there.

Second tip,

video games and/or hobbies. If you’re not a gamer, there are plenty of free games out there for you to play (legally). The epic games store has (of course) Fortnite if you want to see what that’s all about or Dauntless if you want a more cooperative experience. They also have different free games every week that you just get to keep. Find a game that makes the time just slip away.

I personally highly recommend Stardew Valley. It’s not free, but it is worth every penny, even at full price. And if others get it, you can make a farm together. To be honest, it’s my most played game on Steam. There’s something for everyone, and it’s just a lovely game.

I also recommend anything by Jackbox Games. You can play these with friends and only one person (whoever plans on hosting the game) needs to actually own it. The others join in on their phones, laptops, tablets, etc. The host can make sure other people can see with Discord’s Go Live feature.

As for hobbies, YouTube is a GREAT resource to learn. It’s how I learned many of my crochet techniques. Just don’t expect to be good at it off the bat. The person teaching you has had years and years to get where they are, and you’ve only just started. Also, your own work is never as bad as you perceive it to be. As an artist, trust me on that.

Third tip,

it’s okay to nap. It’ll be wasted time, sure, but you don’t need to gogogo every second. Lay down, put a podcast on, and listen to it as you do the real world version of the fast forward button. Oh and don’t nap for 30 minutes; you will wake up groggy as all hell. 15, 45, or 60 minutes are fine. And if you think you want to plan for anything longer than that, just don’t set an alarm and wake up from the nap when your body says to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I hope these little tidbits help. I should note that I’m single and no kids so if you find yourself scoffing bc you don’t have the time to do those things bc partner/kid, uhh sorry I can’t help you there 😬 but for you lonely single people in cities with six roommates you don’t like enough to hang out with, hopefully this helps.

Staying Sane While Cooped Up – Part 2: Watching Together Online

One of the things I like to do most is watch movies and TV with my online friends. It helps me have a sense of community, even while I can’t go see movies at the theater with friends because of my wacky work schedule. Alas, I wish this didn’t have to be a list, because if it were still alive, I’d just say rabb.it and be done with the whole thing. But our dear bunny is dead and gone, so a list, we must do.

I’ve seen this suggested many places, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite ways to still get that human requirement of connection, even if you can’t exactly be around anyone due to time (like me) or Shelter at Home (like everyone else).

Some of these programs you’ve probably heard of before. Some of them you might not have. I’ll go through the features, pros, and cons of each so you can figure out which would be best for you and your pals at any given time.

1. Netflix Party

Pros

    Easy interface
  • Anyone can pause the title
  • One-click join
  • Chat room sidebar

Cons

  • Netflix only
  • Desktop only
  • Chrome browser only
  • All parties must have a Netflix account
  • Titles must be available in all users’ countries
  • No in-app voice chat

This is the one I’ve been hearing people suggest most often. It’s a great extension and does its job exceedingly well. The limitations are the only drawbacks, so if those cons don’t apply to you, absolutely go for it. With regards to the voice chat – if you want to be in VC while you watch – you can just start up a Skype or Discord call and voila!

2. Discord/Go Live

Pros

  • Joiners can use both desktop & mobile
  • Voice chat & text chat
  • Can view any site the host can go to
  • Multiple streaming site accounts not required

Cons

  • Requires the host be on desktop
  • Viewers have no control of video
  • Relies on hosts’ processing power/internet speed
  • Lag on viewer end can occur (usually fixed with a leave/rejoin of the call)
  • Can be a bit difficult to figure out the first time

I mentioned it in the previous Staying Sane article, but Discord’s Go Live feature is really great for watch parties. The only serious drawback I find with it is that occasionally viewers will get a bit of lag on their part, but it usually resolves with a quick leave and rejoin. This is my usual go to just because of the versatility, though it is a bit more complicated than the one-click of NP.

3. Rave.io

Pros

  • Easy interface
  • One-click join
  • Multiple (not all) sites available – including Netflix & Google Drive
  • Great if everyone is using their phone or tablet
  • In-app text chat
  • Anyone can pause the title

Cons

  • if using Netflix, all users must have their own Netflix account
  • Same country availability restrictions as Netflix Party
  • Mobile/tablet only, no desktop option
  • Weak in-app voice chat

This one I recommend mostly if everyone is on their mobile or tablet device. Great little app, although limited in its functions. Simple to set up, though, and works well.